"Weber had proposed a stronger version, but the law enforcement lobby owned enough votes to force a compromise."
As the role of police labor unions has come under increasing scrutiny in the wake of the death of George Floyd, the financial means by which the organizations wield power and influence comes under the spotlight.
"Law enforcement associations have poured more than $7 million into the campaigns of California lawmakers in the past two decades, and that leads to real power in Sacramento," Daniel G. Newman, president of MapLight, a nonprofit political money tracker, told the Sacramento Bee.
Lorena Gonzalez, highest recipient of police union money ($163,900), in 2018 gave back $2000 from private prison contractor Core Civic.
"Not everyone has millions of dollars to spend on politics and our current campaign fundraising system often bends policy toward the interests that fund campaigns."
Bee opinion editor Gil Duran indicates in a June 12 account that police unions don't always get their way with legislators who benefit from campaign largesse. Still, the trail of police reform is often murky.
The paper's research revealed that the biggest cop union money recipient in the legislature, with $163,900 in contributions, is San Diego Assembly Democrat Lorena Gonzalez.
Ben Hueso got $3000 from the Los Angeles Police Protective League PAC.
"I've been a strong supporter of criminal justice reform, including new safeguards to hold police officers accountable for their actions, and I co-authored Dr. Shirley Weber's AB 392 to reform the use of force by the police," Gonzalez said in a statement to the paper.
"After Newsom signed it into law, however, some pro-police advocates bragged that it was toothless," the Bee observed. "Weber had proposed a stronger version, but the law enforcement lobby owned enough votes to force a compromise."
Other California legislators who've been bankrolled by cops, including state Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco, have now promised to "redirect $20,000 in law enforcement donations to community groups and refuse future contributions." His fellow Democrat Lena Gonzalez of Long Beach pledged to do the same, the paper added.
Lorena Gonzalez employed a similar disgorgement ploy in 2018 when it came to light that her campaign had accepted $2000 from private prison contractor Core Civic, operator of a controversial lockup run for the federal government along the border in San Ysidro.
According to state disclosure records, police donations to San Diego's Gonzalez have included $4400 from the Long Beach Police Officers Association PAC in 2017; the California State Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police Pac with $8400; and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, with $27,800.
The records show that Assembly Democrat Weber, a member of the Legislative Black Caucus, got no money from the police unions. But a host of other locals did, including Democrat state Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, with $18,800 this year from the Los Angeles Police Protective League PAC.
The same group gave state Senate Democrat Ben Hueso $3000 for his 2018 reelection campaign, per the data. This year, Hueso is running for the District 1 seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to be vacated by termed-out Republican Greg Cox.